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With a 48-17 record at week's end, 2 1/2 games better than
Seattle's, Utah is poised to gain home court advantage
throughout the Western Conference playoffs for the first time in
history. "It's our primary objective right now," says guard John
Stockton. "We've never had it, and we feel it would improve our
odds considerably." Because of its notoriously physical style,
the Jazz needs more home cooking from the refs than any other
team. That's especially true in the rough-and-tumble playoffs:
Since Karl Malone joined Stockton in Utah in 1985-86, the Jazz's
postseason record is 35-15 at home and 11-36 on the road....
Hearing that cross-dressing teammate Dennis Rodman was going to
moonlight as a pro wrestler, Bulls forward Dickey Simpkins
asked, "What's he going to be called? Victoria Secret?"... One
key to the stellar play of Hornets center Vlade Divac (12.9
points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game through Sunday): He
gave up his habit of 10 to 15 cigarettes a day....After being
traded twice in three days last month--from the Mavericks to the
Nets to the Lakers--swingman George McCloud made only nine field
goals in his first nine games with L.A. Twice this season with
Dallas he made nine field goals in one game...."The
pick-and-roll has been killing us," says Kings guard Mitch
Richmond. "We haven't stopped it since Spud [Webb] and Randy
[Brown] were here." Brown and Webb left Sacramento after the
1994-95 season....After wearing a pair of Air Jordan sneakers in
an 85-78 win over the Pacers on March 5, Cavaliers guard Terrell
Brandon said he still didn't feel like Mike. "I didn't shoot
enough," said Brandon, who scored 17 points....Rule 5, Section
VII of the NBA rule book says that a team must be "in control"
of the ball to call a timeout. But night after night, players
are calling time to save possession while flying out of bounds.
Isn't it time to embrace the spirit of the rule and require a
player to have two feet on the floor in order to be awarded a
timeout?...Ejected last week for arguing a charging call against
the Clippers, Golden State forward Chris Mullin delayed the game
for a couple of minutes by walking off with the ball in his
arms. The Warriors had to send a ball boy into the locker room
to get it back....Phoenix coach Danny Ainge is calling Horacio
Llamas, a rookie forward from Mexico, Bano--the Spanish word for
bathroom--for all the time Llamas spends in the john. Says Suns
guard Kevin Johnson, "Most of my teammates aren't bilingual, so
I tell them it means Great Warrior."... With apologies to
President Clinton, the biggest pratfall in Florida last week
belonged to Heat forward Jamal Mashburn, who missed all 10 of
his shots in an 82-76 loss to Charlotte.... Hawks center Dikembe
Mutombo has been told to cease wagging his finger at players
after he blocks their shots. The league considers it taunting
and fears it will provoke retaliation.... Magic center Rony
Seikaly was confused when his former team, Golden State,
triple-teamed him during their March 7 game. "If they had so
much respect for me," said Seikaly, "why didn't they get me the
ball more last year?"...Owner Donald Sterling is resisting
pressure from the league to move the Clippers from the Sports
Arena in Los Angeles to Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim because he's
convinced the team just needs more time to catch on in L.A.
He'll even bet his Edsel on it.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID LIAM KYLE Utah's Stockton is drawing a bead on the home court edge for the postseason. [John Stockton in game]




Nets center Eric Montross might well be called Big Country, if
another flat-topped 7-footer didn't already have that nickname.
Born and raised in Indianapolis, Montross grew up fishing,
hunting and listening to country music. Here are his favorite
C&W songs.

1 Forever and Ever, Amen, Randy Travis
2 Rockin' with the Rhythm of the Rain, The Judds
3 No Time to Kill, Clint Black
4 The Dance, Garth Brooks
5 Little Bitty, Alan Jackson